Fred Warner reminds our staff of David Fulcher and feel that NFL teams wanting to move him to middle linebacker need to examine his pass defense skills - which are of above average quality. While most college ‘backers are still raw in pass coverage technique, Warner has excelled in this area, recording seven interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns and has held opposing quarterbacks to a 21.17 pass completion percentage vs. him.
Warner has an athletic frame with good upper body muscle tone, long arms, thick legs, good bubble and loose hips to accelerate and close on the ball. Do not downgrade him on his average 40-yard time, for he is a naturally fast runner who moves effortlessly when changing direction and has the range to make plays down the line.
Expected Draft Slot: Day 3
He’s also a smart and instinctive athlete who loves to physically challenge the tight ends by coming right up to the line of scrimmage and attacking his defender immediately after the ball is snapped. He makes good body adjustments on the move and knows how to use his power to face up and attack the inside rush lanes. He maintains his position at the point of attack and takes good angles in pursuit, as he is very effective at maintaining leverage and keeping containment.
Moving to field linebacker in 2016, Warner has shown good improvement with his hands in attempts to fend off blocks and pursue the play, as his additional ten pounds of bulk last season helped him compensate for some strength issues. He has valid moves to avoid trash and shows a quick burst to cut off the runner at the corners. He’s an effective tackler who won’t punish the opponent, but can break down, face up and wrap when working in space. He shows good balance on the move and is quick to break out of his pedal to mirror receivers past the short area.
Warner also has the smooth turning motion and loose hips to get good depth on his pass drops and keeps his head on a swivel. In pass coverage, the linebacker times his leaps well competing for the pass (seven thefts and thirteen deflections) and will settle with speed to close and make plays on the ball. He does a good job of reaching and plucking the ball away from the body’s frame. He’s a decent pass rusher who might lack raw power, but can deliver a punishing club move to rock offensive linemen back on their heels. He generates good speed while taking proper angles to close on the pocket.
Warner has functional hands to grab, pull and jerk blockers to the ground, but when he does not get them up quickly, blockers lock on to his pads and he struggles to disengage. He has adequate, not great power, making him more of a finesse tackler than one that will generate pop on contact. He’s demonstrated good pass rush ability the last two years due to better hand usage, but is more comfortable in run containment that blitzing, as he loses leverage when he gets too high in his stance, narrowing his base in the process.
Warner has enough size (just lacks bulk) to even play down as a rush end in the nickel package and has been known for his highlight reel-type of hits on the kickoff coverage unit earlier in his career. He attacks the rush lanes with good aggression and has enough hand punch to push the fullback back through the lanes, when he stays low in his pads. When he gets too erect in his stance, he will lose leverage and the result is the blocker latching on to his pads, causing him to struggle trying to shed.
Warner has the valid speed, feet and acceleration to handle man coverage assignments. He has the loose hips to come out of his breaks cleanly and is smooth dropping back into pass coverage, getting good depth in those drops. He is also very effective at getting physical and using his hands to reroute tight ends at the line of scrimmage.
His ability to flow from sideline-to-sideline allows him to chase hard in making plays vs. the outside run. He is quick to digest plays and has the passion to make plays, even at the cost of his own safety. At the pro level, he can provide a team with a presence at the weak-side outside linebacker position in a classic 4-3 set up or shift inside in a 3-4 or nickel package.
Compares To...A.J. Klein-New Orleans Saints...Warner is like Klein - a blue-collar type who does not mind getting dirty in the trenches, yet still have the balance and coverage skills to handle tight ends and backs in passing situations. He seems to be a perfect candidate for the hybrid safety/linebacker role, as he might be the most instinctive linebacker in this class when it comes to shutting down an opponent’s aerial attack.